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The death of a police dog has Kansas on the verge of increasing penalties for killing K-9 officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas is poised to increase penalties for killing police dogs and horses after lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure inspired by a suspect’s strangulation of a dog last year in its largest city of the state.

The Republican-controlled state House voted 115-6 to approve a bill that would allow a first-time offender to be sentenced to more than three years in prison for killing a police animal, an arson dog, a game warden’s dog or a search warrant. and rescue dog and up to five years if the murder occurs when a suspect tries to evade law enforcement. An violator can also be fined up to $10,000.

The current penalty for killing a police dog is up to a year behind bars and a fine of between $500 and $5,000, and the law does not specifically address horses.

“A lot of time and money is being spent on these animals,” said House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita and the bill’s leading advocate. “They have to train all the time all the time and if one is killed there has to be a pretty severe punishment.”

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The Republican Party-controlled Senate approved the measure last week by a narrower 25-15 margin, and the bill passes alongside the Democratic administration. Laura Kelly, who has not publicly said whether she will sign it. Kelly typically signs measures with bipartisan support, but most of the 11 Democrats in the Senate opposed the bill.

Higher penalties have received bipartisan support across the US. In Colorado, the Democratic-led General Assembly approved a measure last month. Proposals have been introduced in Republican Party-controlled legislatures in Missouri and West Virginia and introduced in at least four other states.

The measure in Kansas was inspired by the November death of Bane, an 8-year-old police dog from Wichita. Authorities say a suspect in a domestic violence case took refuge in a storm drain and strangled Bane when a deputy sent the dog in to flush the suspect out.

But critics of such measures have questions about the way dogs are used in law enforcement, especially when dealing with suspects of color. Its use also has a fraught history, such as its use by Southern authorities during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

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“Police dogs have jaws strong enough to pierce sheet metal. Victims of attacks by police dogs have suffered serious and even fatal injuries,” Keisha James, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild’s National Police Accountability Project, said in written testimony before a Senate committee last month. “It follows that an individual attacked by a police dog will respond by attempting to defend themselves.”

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